University of Texas, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Tim O'Brien:

A Preliminary Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: O'Brien, Tim, 1946-
Title: Tim O'Brien Papers
Dates: 1916-2007, undated
Abstract: The bulk of the Tim O'Brien Papers is made up of materials related to his novels and short stories, such as drafts, typescripts, proofs, correspondence, interviews, reviews, and book promotion and publishing items. Also present are smaller amounts of personal and family records.
Extent: 31 document boxes, 8 serial boxes, 1 oversize box (16.7 linear feet)
Language: English
Repository: The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Scope and Contents

The materials in the Tim O'Brien Papers span not only his long career as an author, but also much of his life from his birth in Austin, Minnesota, through his teaching career at Texas State University San Marcos. The bulk of the collection is made up of materials related to his novels and short stories, such as drafts, typescripts, proofs, correspondence, interviews, reviews, and book promotion and publishing items, but also present are smaller amounts of personal and family records containing items as varied as O'Brien's baby book; short stories he wrote in junior high school; correspondence from the summer he was drafted, basic training, and his tour of duty in Vietnam; more than one hundred photographs of O'Brien and family members; and personal documents such as his parents' marriage certificate, birth certificates, and honorable discharge documents.

The papers are arranged in six series: I. Works, 1970-2007; II. Correspondence, 1977-2007; III. Career-Related, 1970-2007; IV. Family and Personal Records, 1916-2007; V. Works by Others, 1982-2006; and VI. Published Material, 1941-2006. Upon arrival, the majority of the material was arranged roughly in the present order; i.e., mainly grouped by novel, with some boxes containing unrelated items that were arranged into corresponding series. O’Brien’s handwritten comments appear throughout. Some of his notations appear to have been written for a contemporary second party; others seem directed at future researchers.

Series I. Works is further divided into two subseries, A. Novels, 1970-2007, and B. Short Works, 1970-2004. O'Brien's novels are well represented in Subseries A. with typescripts, proofs, and galleys, almost all with various amounts of revision, editing, and proofreading corrections, often in O'Brien's hand. Each novel also has at least two folders of related correspondence comprised of business and fan mail, as well as additional folders of interviews, reviews, promotion and production materials such as advertisements, reading announcements, and dust jacket proofs, and related works by others, including stage, film, and television scripts, theses, and dissertations. (Series V. contains additional works by others, and Series VI. contains short story excerpts from each novel as published in periodicals.)

Subseries B. Short Works contains drafts and proofs for essays, short stories, and reviews written between 1989-2004, as well as some tearsheets from serials in which some of the drafts were finally published. (Series VI. has a number of the actual serials as well.) Also present in Subseries B. are materials related to "Vietnam in Me," an article in which O'Brien describes his return to Vietnam more than twenty years after fighting there, including a final draft, article contract, trip itinerary and notes, photographs, and research materials.

The Correspondence Series contains chronological files of career-related and fan mail, as well as alphabetical files of correspondence from other writers including Ray Bradbury, Phil Caputo, Raymond Carver, James Grady, John Irving, Naomi Nye, Joyce Carol Oates, George Plimpton, Oliver Stone, James Webb, and Tobias Wolff. Perhaps most significant is the "literary correspondence" file, arranged chronologically, which O'Brien describes as "some pretty fair stuff about my early thinking/plans" regarding his writing.

Series III. Career-Related contains a large group of financial papers primarily made up of literary contracts and royalty statements for novels, although some materials relate to awards, grants, and endowments. Also present are interviews and reviews, notes and research materials, speeches, lectures, and teaching notes, as well as some photographs.

Series IV. Family and Personal Records primarily spans O'Brien family history beginning with the lives of O'Brien's parents before his birth, documented by certificates of birth, marriage, and military discharge as well as some photographs, and continuing through his years at Harvard University, documented by class notes, school records, and photographs. The intervening years are represented by O'Brien's baby book and photograph, baptism record, correspondence prior to and during his military service, junior high school through Macalester College correspondence, newspaper clippings, and school records, and a folder containing material related to Lorna Lou Moeller, a childhood friend on whom the character of Linda in The Things They Carried was modeled.

Series. V. Works by Others contains play and movie scripts, theses, criticism, a bibliography, and short works of fiction by fans, scholars, and professional writers.

The final series, Published Material, is divided into four subseries, A. Fiction, B. Book Reviews, C. Interviews Given and Articles about Tim O'Brien, and D. General Periodicals. Subseries A. is arranged alphabetically by novel, listing the serial publications in which corresponding stories or chapter excerpts were published. Subseries B. is arranged alphabetically by title of publication with the article title and year of publication listed, while Subseries C. and D. are arranged by alphabetical title only. Overall the collection is in good condition.



Open for research

Separated Material

Books, audio recordings, computer disks, and personal effects received with the collection have been transferred to the appropriate departments within the Ransom Center.

Administrative Information


Purchase, 2007 (R16545)

Processed by:

Stephen Cooper, 2008

Container List

Series I. Works, 1970-2007, undated

Subseries A. Novels, 1970-2007, undated
Box Folder
1 Going After Cacciato (1978)
1-3 Typescript with corrections
Page proofs
4-6 September 1977
7 Copy 2
Box Folder
2 1-2 Copy 2, cont'd
3-5 Revised January 1986
Galleys, with corrections for paperback editions
6 November 1988
7-8 April 1989
Box Folder
3 1 "Lake Country, A Play for Radio" typescript
2-3 Personal and fan mail, 1978-1994, undated
4 Publishing, 1975-1992
National Book Awards, 1979
5 Articles and announcements
6 Ceremony materials
Correspondence, 1979
7 Personal and fan mail, March-May
8 Professional, August
9 Interviews, 1978-2000, undated
10-11 Reviews, 1977-1987, undated
12 Reviews, foreign, 1978-1981, undated
13 Dust jacket proofs
14 Ads and promotion pieces
15 "Retrospective pieces," 1976-1987
Box Folder
4 If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home (1973)
1-2 Final typescript, with revisions
3 Page proofs, with corrections, 1989
4 Dust jacket proofs, publicity photographs
5 Personal and fan mail, 1973-1995, undated
6 Professional, 1970-2002
7 Reviews, 1973-1995
In the Lake of the Woods (1994)
8-10 Typescript, final version
Box Folder
5 1-3 Setting copy, with corrections, May 1994
Page proofs
4-6 Undated, with corrections
7-9 July 1994, with corrections
Box Folder
6 1-3 A.B.A. presentation copy
4-6 Presentation copy
7 Uncorrected advance, with paperback revisions
8 Advance reading copy, with paperback revisions
Box Folder
7 1 Notes and research materials
2 Promotion and production materials
3-5 Fan mail, 1992-1999, undated
6 Personal, 1994-1995, undated
Box Folder
8 1 Professional, 1985-1995
2 Awards materials
3 Interviews, 1994-1995
4 Reviews, 1994-2001, undated
5 Related works by others, 1996-2000
6 Thank-you book, 1998
July, July (2002)
7 Typescript fragments, chapters 15, 23
8-9 Typescript, with revisions
Box Folder
9 1 Typescript, cont'd
Page proofs, 2002
2-4 February 12, with revisions
5-7 March 12, with corrections
8-9 March 15, with copy edits
Box Folder
10 1 March 15, cont'd
2-4 March 26, with corrections
5-7 June 13, with revisions
8 Bound with minor corrections
9* Publicity and production materials (*floor displays removed to Oversize Box 32)
Box Folder
11 1 Short story drafts for Esquire and The New Yorker, 2002
2 Personal, 2001-2003
3 Professional, 1999-2002
4 Interviews, 2002, undated
5 Reviews
Northern Lights (1975)
6-9 Final typescript, with revisions
10 Notes and research materials
Box Folder
12 1 Dust jacket proofs
2 Fan mail, 1983
3 Professional, 1973-1975
4 Reviews, 1975-1976, undated
The Nuclear Age (1981)
5-7 With revisions
8-9 Final version
Box Folder
13 1 Final version, cont'd
Page proofs for paperback editions
2-3 With corrections, 1985
4-6 "Final corrected" set, 1985
7-8 Laurel paperback edition, 1993
Box Folder
14 1 Uncorrected advance, undated
2-4 Corrected galleys for paperback edition, 1985
5 Notes
6-7 Research materials
Box Folder
15 1 Production materials
2 Fan mail, 1976-1995, undated
3 Personal, 1980-1985, undated
4 Professional, 1980-1987, undated
5 Interviews, 1979-1986, undated
6 Reviews, "good" and "bad," 1980-1986, undated
The Things They Carried (1990)
7 "Original" draft, with revisions
8 "Earliest" draft, with revisions
9-11 "1st" draft, with revisions
Box Folder
16 1-2 "2nd" draft, with revisions
3-5 Page proofs, with revisions
6 "Sampler" proofs for marketing
7 Speeches, short stories, 1995-2003, undated
8-9* Production materials (*cover proof for Minnesota Monthly, March 1990; Chicago Book Festival floor display removed to Oversize Box 32)
* Appalachian State University scrapbook (*removed to Oversize Box 32)
Box Folder
17 Correspondence
1 Awards, 1984-1993
2-6 Fan mail, 1987-2004
Box Folder
18 1 Fan mail, cont'd, undated
2 Personal, 1990-2000, undated
3 Professional, 1986-2000, undated
4 Interviews, 1990-2000, undated
5-6 Reviews, 1989-2007, undated
7 Works by others: thesis, dissertation, criticism
Box Folder
19 1-2 Works by others, cont'd
3 "A Soldier's Sweetheart," Showtime publicity packet, photographs
Tomcat in Love (1998)
Page proofs
4-5 "Penultimate pass," with corrections, June 1998
6-7 "Final and last pass," May 1998
Box Folder
20 1 Final pass, cont'd
2-4 For paperback edition, April 1999
5 Notes
6 Short stories, drafts and tearsheets
7 Production materials
Box Folder
21 Correspondence
1 Fan mail, 1998-1999
2 Personal, 1997-1998, undated
3 Professional, 1995-2001, undated
4 To Mr. and Mrs. William O'Brien, 1998
5 Interviews, 1998, undated
6-7 Reviews, 1998-1999, undated
Subseries B. Short Works, 1970-2004, undated
8-9 Essay, review, short story drafts, 1989-2004, undated
10 Foreign language publications with short stories, 1984
Box Folder
22 1 Published short story and article tearsheets, 1970-2002
"Vietnam in Me," published in The New York Times Magazine, October 2, 1994
2 Article with corrections, proofs, final draft, 1993-1994
3 Contract, trip itinerary, notes, and correspondence, 1993-1994
4 Fan mail, 1994-1995, undated
5 Photographs
6-7 Research materials

Series II. Correspondence, 1977-2007, undated

Box Folder
23 1 Career-related, 1980-2003
2-3 Fan mail, 1980-2003
4 Fan mail from online guestbook, 1997-2007
5 Foreign publishing, 1979-1998
6 Foreign translation, 1978-1998
7-8 From other writers, A-W, unidentified, 1977-2007, undated
9 "Literary correspondence," from Tim O'Brien, 1986-1990

Series III. Career-Related 1970-2007, undated

Box Folder
24 1* American Academy of Arts and Sciences awards, 1992-1999 (*group photo of honorees for 1992 award removed to Oversize Box 32)
Financial papers
2 Grant and endowment materials, 1970-1987
Literary contracts
3 Articles and short stories, 1975-1999
4 Foreign publications, 1978-1999
5-7 Movie, musical, play, and television, with correspondence, 1983-2007
Royalty statements
8 Going After Cacciato, 1979-2007
Box Folder
25 1 Going After Cacciato, cont'd
2 If I Die in a Combat Zone, 1973-2007
3 In the Lake of the Woods, 1998-2006
4 July, July, 2003-2006
5 Northern Lights, 1976-2007
6 The Nuclear Age, 2004-2006
7 The Things They Carried, 1990-2007
8 Tomcat in Love, 1999-2007
9 Summary of number of novel copies sold
Box Folder
26 1-2 Interviews, 1978-2007
3 Notes and research materials, 1981-2001, undated
4 Photographs
5 Quotations and poems by others
6* Readings, announcement articles and pamphlets, 1981-2006, undated (*Shady Side Academy Distinguished Writers Series 2005 publicity posters; Ohio State University Creative Writing Program poster removed to Oversize Box 32)
7-8 Reviews, 1997-2007
Box Folder
27 1-3 Speeches, lectures, and notes, 2004-2007, undated
4 Teaching materials, "other writers"
5 Writing conference packets, 1975-1993, undated

Series IV. Family and Personal Records 1916-2007, undated

Box Folder
27 "Army Days"
6 Clippings, correspondence, records, 1969-2007, undated
7 Photographs
Box Folder
28 1 Baby book, baby photograph, baptism record, clippings
2 Basic training, with photographs, 1967-1968
3 Personal, 1956-1999
4 Summer drafted, 1968
5 Family photographs, circa 1915-1989, undated
6-8 Harvard University notes, records, photographs, 1971-1972, undated
Box Folder
29 1 High school correspondence, clippings, 1960-1964
2 Junior high school short stories
3 Lorna Lou Moeller clippings, correspondence, photographs
Macalester College
4 Correspondence, photographs, records, 1963-1968
5 Senior class president-related, 1965-1967
6 SPAN summer abroad, 1967
7 Parents' records, 1916-2007
* Print of Vietnamese school children, by T. Bayard 1967/1995 (*removed to Oversize Box 32)

Series V. Works by Others 1982-2006, undated

Box Folder
30 1-3 Criticism, articles, bibliographies, fiction, 1982-2006, undated
4 Frellick, Paul, "In the Lake of the Woods," 1999
5 Linney, Romulus, "Going After Cacciato," 2003
6 Unidentified author, "The Things They Carried," undated
7 Cassavetes, Nick, "Going After Cacciato," 2002
8 Donnelly, Thomas Michael, "The Things They Carried," undated
9 Grigsby, Josh, "The Things They Carried," 2002
Box Folder
31 1 Hayes, Jonathan, "Tomcat in Love," 2004
2 Berman, Jenifer Hope, Myth and the Power of Imagination, 1990
3 Donelli, Shevaun, Tomcat in Love and the Digression of Ill-Repute, 2005
4 Kimmet, Michael Patrick, Metafiction in the Work of Tim O'Brien, 1999
5 Pappas, Ben, How to Tell a True War Story, 1994
6 Vietnam notebook, an English class project, undated
Box Folder
32 Oversize materials

Series VI. Published Material 1941-2006, undated

Subseries A. Fiction, 1974-2002
33 Going After Cacciato:
Denver Quarterly, "Landing Zone Bravo," 1975
Esquire, "The Fisherman," 1977
FIF (Polish), "Going After Cacciato," 1984
Gallery, "Going After Cacciato," 1976, 1986
Ploughshares, "Going After Cacciato," 1976
Redbook, "Keeping Watch by Night," 1976
Redbook's Famous Fiction, "Where Have You Gone, Charming Billy?" 1977
Shenandoah, "The Way It Mostly Was," 1976
If I Die in a Combat Zone:
Literary Cavalcade, "Centurion," 1976
34 In the Lake of the Woods:
The Atlantic, "The People We Marry," 1992
Esquire, "How Unhappy They Were," 1994
July, July:
Esquire, 2000-2002
"July '69"
"Little People"
"What Went Wrong"
The New Yorker, 1999-2002
"Too Skinny"
"Half Gone"
Northern Lights:
Ploughshares, "A Man of Melancholy Disposition," 1974
The Nuclear Age:
The Atlantic, "The Nuclear Age," 1979
"Civil Defense," 1980
35 "Underground Tests," 1985
Granta, "Quantum Jumps," 1985
Ploughshares, "Quantum Jumps," 1983
The Things They Carried:
"The Ghost Soldiers," 1981
"The Things They Carried," 1986
"How to Tell a True War Story," 1987
"The Lives of the Dead," 1989
"Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong," 1989
36 "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong," 1989 (Japanese)
GQ, "In the Field," 1989
Harper's, "Enemies and Friends," 1990
Macalester Today, "On the Rainy River," 1990
McCall's, "Field Trip," 1990
Playboy, "On the Rainy River," 1990
The Quarterly, "Spin," 1990
Tomcat in Love:
The New Yorker, "Faith," 1990
Subseries B. Book Reviews, Non-Fiction Articles, 1972-2006
37 Book-of-the Month Club News, "Author's Choice," 1978
Esquire, "The Violent Vet," 1979
"A Letter to My Son," 2004
"The Best of Times," 2006
The New Republic, "The Youth Vote," 1972
New York, "The Ballad of Gary G.," 1979
The New Yorker, "The Streak," 1998
The New York Times Magazine, "The Vietnam in Me," 1994
Penthouse, 1974
"Prisoners of Peace"
"Revolt on the Turnpike"
"The Vietnam Veteran"
Ploughshares, "Introduction," 1995-1996
Redbook, "Claudia Mae's Wedding Day," 1973
38 Saturday Review, 1979-1980
"Falling Star"
"Tales His Father Told Him"
"Burning Love"
"Honor Thy Commander"
Subseries C. Interviews Given and Articles About Tim O'Brien, 1979-2005
38 ANQ -- Five Points, 1990-2004
39 Gadfly -- Shady Side Academy Magazine, 1986-2004
40 Southwestern American Literature -- Writers Notes Magazine, 1979-2005
Subseries D. General Periodicals, 1941-2006
Boston Magazine -- Whiskey Island, 1941-1996